The Genius Cube Store is a regular feature at SOFA, featuring an impressive array of Rubik’s Cubes and other games that develop logic and strategy. Oli Pritchard pieces together the puzzle behind the store’s success.
Every year at SOFA I’ve been baffled by the existence of a shop (Genius Cube Store) apparently only selling Rubik’s Cubes. Every year I’ve wondered at how they could possibly make money, yet every day they turn up and seem to do well. So, when they turned up yet again this year, I seized the chance to find out more.
I was greeted by Carmen Coronado who enthusiastically put me straight, explaining that more than just the cubes, these were “tools for developing mental abilities. As well as the cubes, we have games of logic, mathematics and strategy.” She pointed out that, “We have customers from all ages, from seven and up, but also many adults that love this type of game. Maybe it’s because they normally find fun in cell phones or in electronic apparatuses. So, using their free time to do something different, something that isn’t electronic, gives a different type of relaxation.”
Coronado continues, “None of these games have batteries, none of them need a connection or power. So, playing with them is like taking a step backwards, being more human and disconnecting from the electronic world. It allows us to play with a friend, with family, to enjoy the basic things again.” It’s a nice thought, and one that no doubt resonates with many people in this hi-tech, fast-paced, modern world.
But more than just disconnection, the games can help you with basic life skills, as Coronado makes clear. “Our games allow you to improve your concentration, your mathematical skills, your memory and your basic mental agility.” All of those are things I often see lacking in my students – maybe these games that rely on pure reason and not luck could be useful in the classroom. It turns out the shop does they do just that, working with disadvantaged kids: “We have worked with many youngsters with addictions, because addiction makes you anxious, and this type of game can help you to focus on something else. The benefits of these games are not just intellectual, but also emotional.”
There are tournaments too, not just fun and games at home or alone. “We also organise the national championships of the cubes, which is a mental sport. It has a long history in Europe, and in Colombia we have been doing official tournaments for seven years now, all over Colombia.”
They pull in around 200 competitors at a time, which puts them in the top category of world rankings. “The next championships we have, on November 7 and 8, will feature the World Champion,” boasts Coronado with a beaming grin on her face.
Some of the high level competitors are able to complete the cubes blindfolded. It sounds ludicrous, but apparently not. “No. Difficult, but not impossible,” says Coronado. “There are 43 trillion possibilities, so if you know the starting position it can be possible. You need an excellent memory to memorise the algorithms necessary to complete the puzzle.”
I wonder if she’s a whizz with the cubes and she laughs. “I’m not that fast, in truth. The national champion can do it in 7 seconds.” Her time is still under half a minute, which impresses me greatly. We talk about the different types of cube and she shows me a strange, Borg-cube-esque thing. [this will work better if we have the pix] “My favourite cube is the mirror block. As you can see, it has no colours, but instead shapes, and you have to make it into a perfect cube.” To me, it looks utterly bonkers, but maybe that’s no bad thing. After all, it seems clear that there are many benefits from these types of activity and we could probably all do with unplugging at times and learning to focus and relax.
If you missed them at SOFA, you can them online or at their shop here in Bogotá, Genius Cube Store, Carrera 15 #73-28.